‘My restaurant was my life for 20 years. Does the world need it anymore?’

Restaurants Closing Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 8.24.17 AM

A story in this past Sunday’s New York Times magazine was written by a chef and owner of a restaurant named Prune. I have never eaten there, but I have read about how wonderful the food and atmosphere were. Gabrielle Hamilton wrote this story, and it is gripping. Suddenly restaurants in New York were shut up tight.

That has happened here, too, and I am worried about the fate of our boom in restaurants that have helped create a vibrant city. Many restaurants have come up with the great idea to create meals for take-out. It helps the workers who can be paid, and it helps us have good food. We’ve all heard about some restaurants that have closed, but also some that have ended the run because owners have decided to retire. It’s understandable, but it’s sad; we are losing part of our history. 

Colorado’s new “Safer at Home” order depends on how things work in May. This new order was announced on Wednesday, April 27. Today, May 1, will allow some personal services to open, such as hair salons; on May 4, offices may open with 50% of workers, with restrictions and guidances (and social distancing in the office).  

But restaurants opening? That will take some time, says our governor, quoted from a TV station during Polis’ comments about restaurants.  “So, people say this. Why salons, not restaurants? We get that people are touching other people in salons. These are one on one services. Restaurants, 30, 40, 50 people depending on how big it is. Bars, even more. … When you have 50-60 people in an enclosed area, it’s a very different risk to everybody than one on one services. So this first round is one on one services,” Gov. Jared Polis said. He was explaining why restaurants would remain take-out only at the start of the Safer at Home order.

The new Safer at Home order announced on April 27 is to continue for 30 days.

Much of this will open slowly, one would assume. Being concerned about our restaurants resonated with me while reading the first two paragraphs of the story on Prune.  I kept catching my breath, in terms of what Hamilton wrote:

“In the night before I laid off all 30 of my employees, I dreamed that my two children had perished, buried alive in dirt, while I dug in the wrong place, just five feet away from where they were actually smothered. I turned and spotted the royal blue heel of my youngest’s socked foot poking out of the black soil only after it was too late.

“For 10 days, everyone in my orbit had been tilting one way one hour, the other the next. Ten days of being waterboarded by the news, by tweets, by friends, by my waiters. Of being inundated by texts from fellow chefs and managers — former employees, now at the helm of their own restaurants but still eager for guidance. Of gentle but nervous pleas from my operations manager to consider signing up with a third-party delivery service like Caviar. Of being rattled even by my own wife, Ashley, and her anxious compulsion to act, to reduce our restaurant’s operating hours, to close at 9 p.m., cut shifts.”

In Colorado, as we navigate new rules — and the fact that everyone is really supposed to wear a mask (please!) — below are links to the story in the New York Times magazine, a lengthy list  of resources from the Colorado Restaurant Association, and a piece by Westword’s food and drink editor Mark Antonation about how dining could change in the COVID era. He spoke with Frank Bonanno, who has been in the restaurant trenches for decades in Denver. It’s not grim, but it’s real. 



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